Game Design

Meeple Monthly Roundup, May 2018 - by Michael Heron

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 14 July 2018 - 10:20pm
Here's what we were up to in the month of May, 2018
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Multi-Tiered Horror Design With Resident Evil Remastered - by Josh Bycer

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 14 July 2018 - 10:20pm
While plenty of people are talking about the Resident Evil 2 Remake, I want to go back to the first Remastered and an interesting way of increasing the horror with enemy design.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Time Manipulation in Unity - Recorded Solutions - by Stas Korotaev

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 14 July 2018 - 10:19pm
We wanted a way for the player to not get stuck while playing and here is how we tackled that problem...
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Why I Think Naughty Dog's Vision Of Inclusivity & Diversity Is Important For The Future Of Games - by Julius Fondem

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 14 July 2018 - 10:18pm
I recently watched RobinGaming’s video on how Naughty Dog's agenda of inclusivity & diversity will in his opinion make their games worse and make them lose fans. In this write up I analyze Robin's arguments and present my own counter arguments.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Review Roundup

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 July 2018 - 11:00am
It’s Saturday once more. I just knew it would show back up eventually. I’m currently playing D&D, and you can watch if you want. But I know what you all really are here for are those reviews I know you so desperately desire. So let’s not keep you waiting any longer. Today we have: Potion […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Game Nite Issue 26 is Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 2:00pm
I’m gonna be doing a lot of gaming this weekend. But that also means the chance to have some downtime. Maybe we’re taking a break during a session. Or we’re waiting for someone to show up. Whatever the reason, it’s good to have something like a gaming magazine ready. Good thing the latest issue of […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Space 1889: The Fate of Angahiaa Adventure Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 1:00pm
International politics is already hard enough. Interplanetary politics is even that much more difficult to untangle. In Space 1889: The Fate of Angahiaa, the Canal Prince wants to expand his influence and power. However, various nations on Earth, who have vested interests in the goods coming through that region aren’t so excited about things. How […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Cyclopes Miniatures Now Available for WarGods

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 12:00pm
The Cyclops is one of the great monsters of ancient times. WarGods is a miniatures game all about the great monsters of ancient times. So, it only seems appropriate to have Cyclopes miniatures in the game. So that’s what Crocodile Games has done. You can pick up these massive minis now. From the announcement: We […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Valve brings trading back to CS:GO in the Netherlands, though loot boxes remain blocked

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 13 July 2018 - 11:53am

This comes weeks after the company first shut the services down in compliance with requests from The Netherlands Gaming Authority. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 11:00am
Tonight: I have a game of D&D. Tomorrow: I have a game of D&D. Tonight: I am bringing some snacks. Tomorrow: I am bringing homemade dark chocolate caramel brownies (I made the caramel last night). Today: I am noshing on some bite-sized gaming stories. On the platter we have: WizKids To Release New Magic: The […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Japan is taking steps to legalize paid esports tournaments

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 13 July 2018 - 10:52am

Laws aimed at illegal gambling have long prevented Japanese esports events from offering cash prizes, but a new licensing program seeks to change that. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

A Thief’s Fortune Coming Back To Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 10:00am
Artipia Games will be returning this August to Kickstarter to relaunch their A Thief’s Fortune card game. In the game, players take on aspects of the same thief. There’s many potential paths for what might happen to them, but only one will create the “best timeline” of events. Create your best life, coming back to […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Flotsam: Adrift Amongst the Stars RPG Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 9:00am
While space travel might be only for the scientists and soon for the hyper-elite, one day it will be the usual course of things. And as space expands to the everyday people, there will be those that go about their regular lives always in the more downtrodden areas of space stations. That’s where you find […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich coming To Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 8:00am
Wyvern Gaming is coming out with a new standalone expansion for the Cthulhu: A Deck Build Game. It’s called The Horror in Dunwich, and it adds all sorts of new elements. If you want to get your hands on this set, you’ve got a little bit of a wait still, though. The campaign will be […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Paizo Previews Starfinder Armory

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 7:00am
It’s a dangerous galaxy out there. Best to get yourself something to fight back against whatever hostile alien life you might find. Be it a small sidearm all the way up to a mobile battle suit, the Starfinder Armory has you covered. We get a quick look inside this upcoming book in this article from […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Forge World Buy a Knight, Win a Knight Contest Happening Now

Tabletop Gaming News - 13 July 2018 - 6:00am
Who doesn’t like getting free stuff? Nobody. Everyone likes getting free stuff. And to celebrate the release of the Imperial Knights codex, Forge World is giving away free stuff. All you have to do is buy an Acastus Knight (or other type of Knight or Titan), and you could win one. BOGO at its lottery […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Art of Convention Game Descriptions

Gnome Stew - 13 July 2018 - 4:00am

A Paizo game master describes a scene emphatically.

At its core, the art of writing convention game descriptions for the preregistration website or booklet is all about setting expectations. They say brevity is the soul of wit, but it is also a necessity when it comes to writing convention descriptions where the word (or even character) count is extremely limited.

The more conventions I attend the harder it is to decide how to allocate my limited time among the many wonderful options. I typically sign up for convention games months in advance, so I tend to forget what I signed up for until I pick up my tickets. However, each event I registered to attend had something special in the convention game description that put it on the top of my list.

Why it Matters

Convention descriptions are less about the setting or story that will be told and more about getting the right players to your table. If you have players show up who are a good stylistic fit to the kind of game you run, everyone is more likely have a fun experience.

For example, I love the Warhammer 40,000 setting, but there are lots of games one can play in 40k. I gravitate towards intense political intrigue games filled with treachery and social manipulation. Other people may gravitate towards playing a game rooted in tactical combat. There are many options available in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, hence a convention game description focusing simply on the setting or rules system is not inherently descriptive of the style of play.

Keywords

One of the easiest and quickest ways to convey the expectation and tone of the game is through keywords, key phrases, or tags in the description.

I use keywords to convey not only the type of game I want to run, but also the style of players I think will thrive in the game. The trick to an exceptional convention game is not about having the best plot, it is about having players that will respond to and embrace the experience the session provides. In short, the purpose of the convention description it to attract people who will have the most enjoyment, satisfaction, and fun.

Here are the types of keywords and phrases that I focus on from most important to least important:

  • The core experience: Role play heavy/rules light. Tactical combat. Puzzle game. Learn to play.
  • Setting tone: Dark Fantasy. Horror. Pulp Adventure. Sci Fi. Four Color Superheroes. Space Opera.
  • System/setting: Savage Worlds Deluxe/Deadlands Noir. AD&D 2nd Edition/Dragonlance. Gumshoe/Harlem Unbound. Powered by the Apocalypse/Monsterhearts 2.
  • Player familiarity: Rules taught/beginners welcome. System experience preferred. System expertise required.
  • Maturity of the players: All ages welcome. Teen 13+. Mature players 18+.
  • Special callouts: Play with the designer! Role Playing or creative writing experience preferred. Bring a character level 4-6. Emotionally intense/heavy subject matter.
Setting Appropriate Expectations

For me, the mark of a good convention game is much like an end of year review; did the game meet or exceed my expectations? So if you have to pick one message to convey, ensure you know what the core experience will be and put that in the convention description. Perhaps it’s my analytical nature, but a significant amount of my “fun” relates to whether or not the game facilitator clearly defined what the game’s core experience will be and whether or not they deliver on that promise.

I think this is true of nearly every form of entertainment and media. When a movie trailer sets my expectations, they have set the bar they must overcome for me to fully enjoy it. When advertisements or word of mouth recommendations oversell or misalign my expectations to what the core experience is, I often feel dissatisfied. When a facilitator sets expectations and delivers on them the players are more likely to feel the “payoff” when the story arc is completed. (Give the people what they want!)

The Bait and Switch

Here’s a story; years ago a friend signed up for a convention game based on a description because they were a huge fan of the specific pop culture setting that was referenced. That description generated interest and excitement from people in that fandom who registered for the game. However, just minutes into the game the GM revealed an unexpected twist: they cleverly plucked the game from the advertised setting and dropped it into a completely unrelated setting. Even the overarching tone was different, jumping from Exploration Sci Fi to Epic High Fantasy.

Don’t do this.

A convention description is a promise to the players about the experience they are buying (remember: conventions aren’t free). Players have allocated their very limited time to play in a game as advertised. Especially when referencing a specific intellectual property setting, know that you will attract fans of that setting and they expect you to deliver. If a player starts out disappointed the GM is going to have a much harder time keeping them engaged and having fun. And one unhappy player can bring down the enthusiasm of the whole table. If the game you intend to “switch” to is that good, advertise that as the game! Simple.

Introduction at the Event

When the event starts, give an introduction that reminds players of the goal for the event. There are only a few hours to play, so aligning the group’s expectations will make the game will run more smoothly.

First, I remind the players the basics of what they signed up for. This is a brief description wherein I may even read the few sentences of the convention description blurb to the players verbatim. I’m sure to include the system, the tone, content warnings, and safety tools at that time as well.

Second, I set the players expectations about the purpose of the game. When I run a Protocol RPG I tell my players that we’re here to have fun and collaboratively tell a story. I specifically call out that there are no dice, no stats, and that “winning is telling a great story.” In this case I facilitate the rules, but the system is there to support the core experience: the story.

This is in contrast to my purpose while running the brand new Wrath & Glory system at conventions this summer. I want everyone to have a fun and satisfying roleplaying experience, but the story is there to support the core experience: learning the system. Hence, my introduction focuses on setting a time expectation for learning the rules before we get into roleplaying.

These are two very different goals. By reiterating the core experience to the players up front I’m setting myself up for success. Since the goal ties back to the convention description this should feel familiar to the players and remind them that this is the experience they signed up for.

Final Thoughts

By writing convention descriptions that effectively summarize the spirit of the game, I attract the players who are the best fit for the given game session. This has proven true time and again with players who stay engaged and leave with smiles on their faces, even when running diceless story games at conventions based around old school style RPGs.

Do you have any other helpful tools for creating convention descriptions? What are other pitfalls you have encountered?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Book Excerpt: A behind-the-scenes look at building Ultima Online

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 13 July 2018 - 1:00am

In these excerpts from Wes Locher's new book 'Braving Britannia', veteran game devs Chris Mayer (now lead on Fallout 76) and Raph Koster remember building one of the early virtual worlds. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Assault Publishing Returns as Assault Publishing Studios

Tabletop Gaming News - 12 July 2018 - 2:00pm
You can’t keep a good gamer down. Like a phoenix, they rise from the ashes. And that’s just what they’re doing at Assault Publishing. Closing up shop just 2 months ago, they’ve returned as Assault Publishing Studios. But this time, they’re more than a game company. They’re an open community designed to help game makers […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

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